How I envy the hermit crab! It is always at home because it carries its shell on its back. And when the hermit crab grows too big for its home, it abandons its shell and finds a new, roomier one.
I, of course, am not strong enough to carry a shell as big as a house on my back. But here, on an island off the coast of Africa, there is a creature strong enough. As I part these leaves, you will see one in the distance. It is carrying a shell so large it could comfortably house a family of four. Meet...the hermit rhinoceros.
My name is Hickory Slick. And welcome to Hickory Slick’s Weirdlife...with Hickory Slick.
This island is unoccupied by humans and has beautiful black-sand beaches. The grasslands that cover the middle of the island look like the savannahs in Africa where the hermit rhinoceros’ non-hermit cousins live.
I’m currently keeping a safe distance from a herd of six hermit rhinoceroses in this grassy clearing, grazing in the afternoon sun. Their enormous pink and orange cone-shaped shells sway gently on their backs. But why do these rhinos have shells?
*Ka-THUNK! Ka-THUNK! Ka-THUNK!*
Ah! I suspect this sudden hailstorm might provide the answer! But I better take cover - hailstones as big as cannonballs are raining down! By quickly unfolding the small metal dome I took with me, I can avoid being conked on the head.
Phew! I’m protected under this dome. And just in time! These hailstorms are a frequent occurrence on this island. Peering through the peephole in my dome, I see no rhinos out and about. They’re all sheltering inside their bright-coloured shells while the hailstorm continues to pound away. The protection the shells provide have allowed these rhinos to flourish. Ah! Now it sounds like the hailstorm is dying down.
I believe that was the last bit of hail. Now, as I fold up my dome and venture out , I’m blessed with the majestic view of rhinoceroses emerging from their shells again.
Oh! And here’s a rare sight! They’re all lining up in an orderly queue next to a large, abandoned shell. Fascinating! They’re displaying the same behaviour as hermit crabs! Wiggling their bottoms, the rhinos all shuffle off their shells at the same time. Now each rhino is scampering to their left to move into the next-biggest shell that was just abandoned by its neighbour. They’re all hoisting their enormous, new homes onto their backs with some very loud grunting.
Oh, yes. They all have a spring in their step now, looking much happier. The rhinos are romping away toward the beach, looking like overgrown puppies. Very overgrown puppies. Puppies with bright-coloured shells the size of a small barn on their backs.
Hmm...now that the clearing is empty of rhinos, I can’t help noticing that a single shell has been left behind. It was the shell that once belonged to the smallest rhino. No explorer has ever been inside one of these remarkable dwellings.
Dare I try?
The coast is clear, so...here I go! Oh, this is so exciting! As I approach the shell, I find its vibrant colours and swirly designs quite striking! Now I’m – oof! – climbing up through one of the two holes at the bottom of the shell where the rhino attaches itself. The rhino wears its shell much like a horse wears a saddle, with a strap made of shell under its belly. I’m now stepping inside what you could call the entrance hall. Oh my! It really is very roomy in here!
And apparently the smooth, curved walls make for some wonderful echoes. HELLO!
*Hello! Hello! Hello! Hello!*
Very nice. As I climb to the top of these stairs, I see two very cosy bedrooms with warm, comfy straw to sleep on. And climbing up one more set of stairs leads up to a lovely, sunny, little sitting room. There is a little bench attached to the wall, right next to a large hot tub built into the floor. That would relax any rhino after a long day of grazing.
And is this a slide leading back to the first floor? *Wheeeeeee!* Oh, that is fun.
But – oh dear – the floor is suddenly tilting to one side. Oh! Now it’s tilting to the other side. And now it feels as if the entire shell is rising!
Yes, with the shell now swaying back and forth, I have to conclude...a new rhinoceros has just moved into this shell. Indeed, I see the back of the rhinoceros covering the shell’s opening and it’s blocking my exit!
Oh no! How do I get out of here?! I won’t be able to leave until the rhino abandons this shell for another shell. But that could be years from now! Oh, this is terrible! I suppose I should be grateful that at least the rhino hasn’t come inside the shell.
Uh oh. I may have spoken too soon. I can hear another hailstorm outside and that means...
Yes, the rhino is coming into the shell. Quick, I have to hide! If the rhinoceros finds me here, it’s going to be very upset! I’ll run up the stairs and hide in one of the bedrooms. But which one? What if it wants to sleep in the bedroom I’m hiding in? And why does one rhino have two bedrooms!? No, I’ll head to the top floor and hide in the sitting room! Aaaah!
I fell in the hot tub. My outfit is sopping wet. And, oh dear, I think the rhino heard me.
I can hear it coming up the stairs. I’m trapped! Hang on – look. There, in the ceiling, is a little hole like a skylight. That’s why it’s so delightfully sunny in here. The hole is much too small for a rhino to fit through. But perhaps it’s just big enough for a human. If I stand on top of this bench – yes – I can just reach the hole with my hands. Uh oh...
I’m running out of time! I have to pull myself up – hnnnnnh – and squeeze through this hole. I’m almost through...and...
Ah! I did it! I’ve escaped. Here I am, standing outside again, on the very top of the shell. I have a wonderful view of the island from up here. Now I quickly and carefully slide down...
And I’m back on solid ground. Phew! Well, I’ve learned my lesson. I won’t trespass into a rhino shell ever again. Because, for the hermit rhino, their shell truly is their castle.
This has been Hickory Slick. Tune in next time for Hickory Slick’s Weirdlife...with me, Hickory Slick.
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Benefits of reading Weirdlife - Hermit Rhinoceros
Weirdlife is an animal documentary inspired bedtime story series. This short story covers the theme of discovery. Hermit Rhinoceros is written and narrated in the first person. We recommend this story for children with a reading age of 6 - 10 years old.
Who are the main characters in Weirdlife - Hermit Rhinoceros
The main character in The Weirdlife series is Hickory Slick and features a variety of fictional animals. In this episode Hickory introduces us to the hermit rhinoceros.